Before you read this article, I feel the need to give you some sort of disclaimer: if you’re reading this article to learn the Madison Club playbook, you won’t find it here. The thing is, I not only live in Madison, love Madison Club, and am friends with many of the players on the team—I also am very romantically involved with a certain fellow on the team. In other words, I want my home life to be as happy as my Ultimate-life leading up to Nationals. But I can tell you about this team and its road to the Championships.
Seeded 15th overall in this year in the USA Ultimate Club Championships, Madison Club has nowhere to go but up. Coming off of a season that showcases some inconsistencies, and that they have the ability to roll with the big dogs, as demonstrated by its 16-17 loss to Revolver at Labor Day.
Part of the season’s inconsistencies can be attributed to large roster turnover between the 2011 and 2012 seasons. In 2012, Madison Club added ten players to their roster that did not gain the big-game experience from last season’s impressive quarter-finals run. Pat Shriwise, Kansas State alum and former Prairie Fire standout, says, “Learning how to be cohesive with large roster turnover has been a challenge for the team. Many of the O-line cutters are new to the team and most have never played together before.”
Adding to the roster turnover, a late start to the Club season may have caused a slow start. The roster really was not set until after the team played NexGen in late June, giving the skeleton squad that traveled out to Colorado Cup a huge disadvantage in terms of on-field chemistry. The sheer lack of early reps was a huge factor in Madison Club’s only loss during the regular season to a non-nationals qualified (Streetgang).
Even with more time to gel, Madison Club has had to work through recruiting a set of relatively inexperienced handlers. Five of the ten new players this season are handlers, causing many offensive hiccups in the regular season. Though many of them have had big game experience in the college season (all five of them have played multiple seasons with the Wisconsin Hodags, heading to finals for two consecutive seasons), they have taken longer to adjust to the changes in tempo between the college and club games.
To create offensive movement, the team used little handler movement in their game early on. Shriwise describes, “Our offense at the beginning of the season was based almost entirely on upfield looks which worked well for us in pool play at most tournaments.” Though it did not happen very often during the early regular season, when the Madison Club offense was connecting on its huge deep looks, the team was nearly unstoppable.
This style of play was working well for Club at Labor Day, when it gave Revolver one of its best games of the regular season. “The Revolver game at Labor Day was a highlight of our season, to be sure. It was a very exciting game that we were in control over almost until game point. It’s a reminder of the level that we have the potential to be at,” says Shriwise.
Teammate Dave Wiseman describes the game in more depth, “We had an opportunity to win this game. At 13’s, Jon Gaynor got a layout block about 10 yards deep in Revolver’s endzone, which was nearly a Callahan. We broke to go up 14-13 with a good bit of momentum. The next point, we got a D and turned it over immediately. They broke at 15s, and we traded out to end the game.” He adds, “It was a positive experience. While upset by the outcome of the game, we are capable of competing with the best teams in the country.”
Though Madison was unable to take down the big dogs, Club demonstrated that its ceiling this season could be huge. Their late season ability to play closely with many of the teams seeded above it in Sarasota shows large improvement over its early season performance. This new-found confidence has allowed the team to find its stride. The new guys have become more comfortable on the field, allowing Club to make offensive adjustments, and their style of play in the post season incorporates significantly more swinging, initiated by handlers.
Shriwise explains, “Later in the season after games against tougher opponents, we’ve been focusing more on resetting the disc consistently and creating horizontal movement in the handle sets to aid in offensive flow and confidence on the field.” This has opened up the Madison Club offense not only for its O-line, but also for its D-line.
Another reversed trend from earlier in the season was the D-line’s failure to convert. Wiseman adds, “Fortunately, we’ve taken to it well and have improved the D-line’s retention rate substantially since Sectionals.”
These adjustments seem to be paying dividends in the mentality that Club takes down to Florida. The team has to prove that it is able to not only play WITH the best, but also to beat the best; this includes avenging regular season losses to Machine at CHC. Wiseman says Club looks forward to playing the Chicago squad on neutral ground, “For us a rematch against Machine is an exciting prospect after seeing them twice in the regular season. Breaking seed in our pool seems to be goal number one for us in Florida.”
Players to Watch:
- Tyler Glenn (#17): Leading scorer from the 2011 College Championships brings versatility to the O-line cutting squad. Though he’s new to the team, he has integrated well to the O, and has incredible chemistry with Colin Camp.
- Kevin Brown (#11): He may be one of the newest and youngest guys on the team, he exudes pure, natural athleticism. You may not see him make huge plays on O, but he will layout-block your player at shoulder height in stride.
- Brian Hart (#13): If you don’t know him, you may want to get well acquainted with him soon. His ability to make huge plays on both sides of the disc makes him an all-around threat.
- Tom Annen (#71): At the helm of Madison Club’s offense, he is poised, confident, and leads the team from the backfield.
Feature photo by Christina Schmidt – Ultiphotos.com